Education

‘Some kids can’t help it’: Fort Mill alumni raising funds to pay student lunch debt

Sisters’ lemonade stand helps classmates pay off thousands in lunch debt, NC mom says

Hailey and Hannah Hager, students in Davidson County, North Carolina, started a lemonade stand to help their classmates pay school lunch debts of more than $3,000, their Facebook page says.
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Hailey and Hannah Hager, students in Davidson County, North Carolina, started a lemonade stand to help their classmates pay school lunch debts of more than $3,000, their Facebook page says.

A group of Fort Mill alumni are combating bullying in schools by helping pay students’ lunch debt.

The Fort Mill Ol’ School Crowd are gathering donations for the Fort Mill school district. Each school in Fort Mill has an Angel Fund, in which community members can make donations to help pay students’ negative lunch balances, according to the district.

The alumni have been donating to the Angel Fund for about two years, said Jean Deese, who helped start the effort. The group takes donations during meetings and some regular contributors donate monthly, she said. The money is given to the school district to distribute where needed.

“It helps because some kids, they can’t help it,” Deese said.

One goal is to ensure students are not bullied for having lunch balances, Deese said. Students who reach a certain debt level may be served an alternative lunch, according to local school districts.

“If you get a brown bag, the other students are going to know,” Deese said. “It’s very obvious. I wouldn’t want my child to have to get that brown bag because you know it’s not what everyone else has.”

As of June 18, the most recent information available, students in the Fort Mill district had about $12,000 in combined student lunch debt, Joe Burke, district spokesperson said in an e-mail to The Herald.

“The school year just ended so we are still seeing funds come in from parents as they clear accounts,” Burke wrote. “That amount also includes any debts remaining from students who moved out of our district during the year.”

Fort Mill schools serve more than 15,000 students, according to the district.

The alumni have raised more than $5,000 since starting the effort, Deese said. She said the group is looking for local businesses to support the effort.

The Ol’ School Crowd also raises funds for buddy benches at schools. The benches are a place where students who feel lonely can sit and be joined by their peers, Deese said.

“Any amount helps,” she said. “It’s a great thing to help the students. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Want to help?

Checks can be mailed to Fort Mill school cafeteria Angel Fund account, attn: Tammie Welch, 2223 Deerfield Drive, Fort Mill, SC 29715.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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